Thanks, everyone, for a smooth first day yesterday. Your well-wishes and congratulations warmed the cockles of my heart. (Don’t look up “cockles” in Urban Dictionary. You’ve been warned. You’ll never look at your heart the same way again.)
The first day’s browser analytics rolled in overnight, and there’s a (maybe) surprising statistic about my first visitors: Almost none of them used Internet Explorer. (The Google Chrome Frame statistic was — at least in part — a test I ran yesterday).
What does this say about the prospects for Internet Explorer? The trends haven’t been good. According to research (that uses a much larger pool of users than y’all), IE accounts for less than 60 percent of browsers on the Internet; in 2005, IE accounted for nine out of every 10 internet browsers. The rapid rise of standards-compliant browsers like Safari, Firefox and Chrome is partly thanks to ease of development: It’s easier to develop good-looking, high-functioning websites using standards than having to create custom code to run specifically with Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer 9, however, is still on the horizon, and Microsoft is promising to support more open standards like HTML 5 and H.264 (for video encoding), which would be a welcome change from previous versions of IE. From a developer’s standpoint, IE 8 still takes a little tweaking before things are just right; IE7 takes a bit longer, and IE 6 generally takes anywhere from an afternoon to a day (depending on the site). Knowing what IE browsers you want to target before development starts is a huge help, since I can front-load some of that work.
The mobile space is even more fragmented, with the built-in BlackBerry browser in addition to IE, Opera, and Webkit-based browsers (the same engine that powers Safari and Chrome). That deserves a bit of in-depth study for another day.
There will always be more than one browser, and competition is healthy and important in the browser market. Making sure browsers render the same code similarly, however, is critical to the future of the web, and will enable developers (and non-technical users alike) to develop websites they know will look and work right no matter who’s browsing.